Reputable media failed with Jones video

John Clay
John Clay

Used to be you could say something to someone in, let's say a drinking establishment, and not have it show up as a video on the Internet for all the world to see.

Used to be, there were these now-antiquated notions called civility and fairness.

I'm speaking here of the Jerry Jones video, which set off a small media firestorm of sorts. The Dallas Cowboys owner was in a bar, talking with fans. Jones made a couple of less-than-flattering comments about Bill Parcells, though he said he loved his former coach. Jones said that Tim Tebow would never make it on the field with the Cowboys.

That would have been the end of it, a good story for the patrons to relay to their friends, except someone used his cell phone to record the exchange on video.

That someone sent the video to Deadspin, which posted it online.

That's what Deadspin does. The Gawker-owned blog/Web site claims no ties to journalism. It deals in gossip and innuendo. It is the same Web site that posted unconfirmed and gossip-laden information in an attempt to out ESPN employees who may or may not have been involved in affairs or sexual misconduct last year. It doesn't play by the rules, because its philosophy is that there are no rules, which, of course, makes it perfect for today. Thus the Jones video was right up its seedy alley.

Then a strange thing happened. The Dallas Morning News, a reputable newspaper, also published the video online. Then ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports, did likewise. Vince Doria, the former sports editor of the Boston Globe, now ESPN's vice president for news, came on Colin Cowherd's radio show basically to defend the action.

His explanation: The video was already out there.

Now there's an opinion based on solid journalistic principle.

Truth is, there wasn't a lot "there" out there. Jones' talk was bar talk: part humor, part sarcasm, part braggadocio. It appears he may have had a drink or two, something people generally do in bars. It also seems obvious Jones is giving his acquaintances what they want, some "inside" info, be it overly exaggerated trash talk. Jones' acquaintances repaid him by hanging the poor owner out to dry. After all, no good deed goes unpunished.

In part, this is our 24-hour, 7-day news cycle at work. The cable networks, the Web sites, they have a lot of time and space to fill. They need content to attract viewers, even if it's content that is questionable at best, flimsy at worst. They need that content now. The sooner the better. There is so much competition, coveted information is instant information. That doesn't make it always the best information, however.

It's not much different on our little corner. Kentucky basketball is a popular entity that drives Internet traffic. Thus there are a growing number of blogs out there — mine included. They range from the juvenile to the serious.

Some post long essay-form opinions about their beloved Cats. Some regurgitate information culled from the "mainstream" media, or similar sources. Others encourage fans to berate (or worse) those deemed unfriendly toward the home team.

After all, these days, anything goes. Nothing is taboo. Nothing is so trivial or inconsequential, or in some cases unfair, it can't be posted on a blog, or a video, or someone's Facebook page.

That doesn't make it journalism. We in the traditional media are supposed to be the professionals here, the ones educated and trained to report news and offer context.

On the Jones video, we clearly flunked those tests. In the chase for a few page views, we lowered ourselves to Deadspin's level.

That's not good, much less good journalism.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader